My Mother's Sunset, The Fading Light of The Lily of God
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
For the past sixteen months I have been at my family home in southeastern Pennsylvania helping care for my mother, who is terminally ill with cancer. This weekend she began a sudden and very rapid decline, such that it became quickly clear to me and my father that her last moments have now truly and finally arrived.
Over the course of the past many months of her illness, during which she has been confined to bed, life at home nonetheless remained as ordinary as it always had been. We eat. We talk about what happened during our day. We have visits from neighbors. We tell funny jokes. We argue about dumb things. We watch movies on television. Put simply, we do the day-to-day stuff that is common to our family.
But as of this weekend, the ordinary routine quickly changed, and a solemn state of affairs took over. A strange silence has now descended upon the house, a stillness that somehow is demanding a demeanor of reverence, as in a church or other sacred space. There is something peculiarly holy in these moments of a life's sunset.
But it is not my mother's life that is diminishing. It is simply that her light is fading. The light of this most extraordinary woman of Life, my mother, Jean Lillian, who I call Lily of God.
Her light fades and will eventually and soon go out. But her life will always remain, just as the sun remains though it vanishes beneath the horizon. It is her very peculiar nature, which all who encountered her could not help but behold, and which I am blessed to inherit from her as a sublime gift. In a book I am currently writing about her, and which I hope to publish later this year or earlier next year, I write the following:
Through a life of abandonment, heartache, tragedy, and despair, my mother has embodied a resilience that I believe can only have been drawn from the well of Heaven itself. A woman thoroughly worldly in her self-admitted imperfections, my mother is nonetheless filled with a profoundly simple and unassuming human faith that has sustained her, and has inspired me. In all she has endured in her seven decades on this earth -- including the cancer that now afflicts her in these, her final days -- she leaves a legacy that is a true parable of love from sacrifice, healing from pain, joy from struggle, and salvation in surrender.
We have been blessed to have my mom remain with us as long as she has, especially since the doctors told her she only had one year to live. That was three years ago. And through it all -- and even now -- she has never taken a single drop of medication, nor has she once suffered or been in pain.
And tomorrow, February 28, is her birthday. She will be 73. She, and we, continue to be blessed.
But no greater honor have I ever had than to be here at home with my mom to hold her hand in these final sunset moments of her life.
Labels: lily of god